GAME 2 FALLOUT
(1) There is always the saying that a series doesn’t start until the road team wins in the oppositions building. That said, the chances of the Penguins – Senators series going more than five games is slim. This one looks to be about over.
The Penguins took a 2-0 series lead with a 4-3 win over the Senators Friday night. Sidney Crosby’s hat trick led the way and the Penguins outshot the Senators 42-22, but the game wasn’t as dominant in the Penguins favor as the shots might indicate.
Pittsburgh played far from a perfect game in Game 2 but the skill level of the Penguins prevailed and it’s the primary reason I believe they will be advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in the next week or so for the first time since 2009.
To beat the Penguins or give them a scare like the Islanders did, you have to be a team that has a very good transition game. Ottawa just doesn’t have the type of top-end skill on their top-2 lines to be a serious threat in this series and with the way Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson are playing, if this series goes more than five games it really would be a shock.
The playoffs is all about matchups and for the Penguins, Ottawa is a very favorable one for them and the Islanders weren’t last round.
For this series, the Penguins skill level figures to get them by the hard working Senators and likely easily, but the Eastern Conference favorites will have their hands full in a potential third round matchup against the Bruins if things play out with the two meeting and I’d peg the Penguins as underdogs in a potential Stanley Cup matchup against the Blackhawks or Kings.
(2) The most positive sign for the Penguins in the series has been their ability to lock down defensively late in games to close out Game 1 and now Game 2. Holding onto a 4-3 lead, the Penguins only allowed 1 shot in the final eight minutes of the third period.
(3) One area the Penguins have excelled at all season when playing at home is just jumping on teams in the first 5 to 7 minutes of the game. It’s something all coaches want to avoid happening when playing the Penguins on the road but Ottawa has been caught in the middle of those opening minute flurries from the Penguins with Crosby setting the tone on the opening shift in both games with Pittsburgh scoring 2:41 into Game 1 and 3:16 into Game 2.
“Catch up hockey is losing hockey,” Senators coach Paul MacLean said after the game. “We’re behind 1-0 early in both games and now you’re playing catch up the whole way, and that takes a lot of energy, and that leads to frustration, and we have to be sure we’re ready for the next game at the start.”
Just 21:15 into the game, Ottawa would eventually be down 3-1 thanks to Crosby’s hat trick. “I was able to capitalize on my chances and felt pretty good out there,” Crosby said afterwards. “It was a pretty fast pace. I think we played with a lot of speed, everybody was going, so it was a nice game.”
(4) Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, as expected, went back with Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis on the top line, leading to the dreaded situation of Jarome Iginla or James Neal playing left wing. Iginla saw the majority of time on left wing with Malkin and Neal, and for one night the three showed a lot of chemistry and created several scoring chances. It was Iginla’s best game on the left side and by far the best game that the three have had together despite not putting up big numbers offensively.
James Neal in particular had his best game of the series. He was excellent at finding Iginla and Malkin open in space for prime scoring chances.
(5) In the past couple games, Brenden Morrow had been seeing diminishing minutes with Tyler Kennedy’s sudden emergence. Last night Morrow had a strong game with a goal and 4 hits. This is a series that suits him much better than the Islanders series. Morrow played 14:01, after playing just 10:31 in Game 1.
GAME 2 PENGUINS LEADERS
Goals: Sidney Crosby (3 goals)
Assists: Kris Letang (2 assists), Paul Martin (2 assists)
Points Sidney Crosby (3 points)
+/-: Matt Niskanen (+3 rating)
Shots: Jarome Iginla (8 shots)
Hits: Chris Kunitz (4 hits), Brenden Morrow (4 hits)
Blocked Shots: Brandon Sutter (5 blocked shots)
Takeaways: Evgeni Malkin (2 TK), Paul Martin (2 TK), Brandon Sutter (2 TK)
Giveaways: Sidney Crosby (2 GV)
Time on Ice: Paul Martin (26:14 TOI)
Faceoffs: Brandon Sutter (9-7, 56.3%)